Another busy week at the Capitol, including the first bill of the session to be signed by the Governor (SF 512 – water quality). The first funnel is only two weeks away, February 16, so there has been a flurry of activity at the committee level to move bills through before that date. Funnel is the final date for bills to be reported out of their respective committees (House bills must be reported out of House committees and Senate bills out of Senate committees). Bills not voted out of committee by funnel are considered “dead.” 

Here are three things for you to know about this week. 

Adverse childhood experiences

Advocates encouraged the Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee Wednesday to continue support for programs that prevent and mitigate childhood adversity.

Angie Kendall of the Child Abuse Council in the Quad Cities and Cheryll Jones of the Child Health Specialty Clinics’ Ottumwa Regional Center testified on Adverse Childhood Experiences, often called ACEs. ACEs are incidents that harm social, cognitive and emotional functioning and upset the nurturing environments children need to thrive.  

The term was coined in a landmark study that surveyed more than 17,000 adults about childhood exposure to nine different adverse experiences, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse, household violence and substance abuse, and tracked their health experiences as adults. The more adverse experiences in childhood, the study showed, the greater the likelihood of health and behavioral problems in adulthood, including heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse and depression. 

Although the original ACEs work took place in California, surveys in Iowa have found the same connections here. 

Kendall said she refers to it as an “oh, duh study.” The idea that what happens in childhood affects the later years is one “everyone in human services has known for years and now we have the science to back it up.”

Cheryll Jones thanked the committee for their past support of initiatives addressing ACEs and asked them to continue to make "good investments,” including expanding 1st Five, a public-private partnership that supports health care providers in earlier detection of development delays and family risk factors, developing a statewide children’s mental health system, protecting and strengthening Medicaid and hawk-i, and infusing a trauma-informed approach in the state’s child-welfare system. 

Kendall said no one can change what children have already experienced, but we know strategies that can help them move forward. “The brain is incredibly plastic and it will continue to learn, but you need to have those supports in place.”

Angie Kendall (center) and Cheryll Jones (right) testified at the Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee Wednesday. 

K-12 funding

The Senate and House Education Committees approved their education funding bills this week, each calling for a 1 percent increase (about $32 million). In her budget proposal, Gov. Reynolds asked for a 1.5 percent increase ($54 million). These are disappointing figures given recent education funding decisions. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds is promoting an isolated figure from a national report to claim Iowa is doing more for schools than the report itself suggests. In fact, regular program school funding (leaving out facility improvements) in Iowa is on a downward trend when adjusted for inflation, as outlined in this backgrounder from the Iowa Fiscal Partnership, a joint effort of the Center and the Iowa Policy Project. 

Ultimately, these trends are fundamentally threatening Iowa's ability to provide every student with a high-quality education. From the backgrounder: "What Iowans long took for granted — a strong and ongoing commitment to local schools, even promoted on the back of a quarter — is increasingly threatened by budget choices and options being considered at the Statehouse."

Read the IFP piece here

Supplemental State Aid (SSA), which governs what local districts can spend on their regular program budgets, is arguably the best single indicator of K-12 funding trends in Iowa. 

Threats to school integration

A conversation this week on Iowa Public Radio brought home the problems with a bill we’ve been watching—and opposing—at the Capitol. SF 270 would ban school districts with a voluntary diversity plan from making open enrollment decisions based on that plan.

Schools districts in Davenport, Des Moines, Postville, Waterloo and West Liberty have developed these diversity plans to help achieve racial balance in their schools. While they are required by federal law to use family economic status—rather than race or ethnicity—as the deciding element in whether to allow a pupil to enter or exit the district, in practice removing their ability to base decisions on their plans would further racially segregate schools. 

Monday’s IPR conversation between host Charity Nebbe and Nikole Hannah-Jones, a New York Times Magazine staff writer and winner of a MacArthur genius grant for her reporting on what she calls the “segregation beat,” drove home how important it is to speak out against bills like SF 270.  

Hannah-Jones, who is African American, grew up in Waterloo and herself participated in a desegregation program as a child, riding the bus to the other side of town to attend predominately white schools. She was frank with Nebbe about the academic opportunities it opened up for her and pointed to the “decades of research” that links attending an integrated school with academic achievement for children of color. 

Hannah-Jones noted that the peak of school integration was in 1988—and that was when the achievement gap between white children and children of color was narrowest. As schools have desegregated, the achievement gap has grown again. “Our schools are as segregated now as they were in the 70s, and there’s almost no political will to do anything about this,” she said. 

She was also clear, though, that segregation hurts not just African American and Latino kids, but kids of every race and ethnicity. “When we segregate schools, we’re denying all children the opportunity to learn with children who can round out their experiences, give them a broader perspective and frankly who can bring minds into the classroom that can challenge other children academically.”

Making sure every kid has a path to opportunity is fundamental to Iowans’ shared prosperity. SF 270 is another barrier that would make that path even more difficult. 

Listen to the Talk of Iowa segment with Nikole Hannah-Jones here


Bill tracker

The pieces of legislation in our bill tracker continued to grow this week. Check it out. 

Find your legislator

Not sure who represents you? With 50 senators and 100 representatives, it can be hard to keep tabs. Visit our Legislator Lookup tool to find out who represents you in the state house and senate, biographical information about each one and a link to their legislative websites, which list contact information and committee membership. All you need to do is enter your home address and zip code. 


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